Congratulations to the Award Recipients of the 2019 Immigrant Welcome Awards

Public Invited to the Immigrant Welcome Awards Ceremony and Celebration on September 21

The sponsors of the 6th Annual Immigrant Welcome Awards are proud to announce the recipients of this year’s awards. Those being honored include:

  • Business Leadership Award – Ruth Wyman Law Office
  • Community Impact Award – Bend the Arc: Champaign-Urbana & Dr. Annie Abbott
  • Distinguished Leadership Service Awards – Claire Szoke
  • Leadership Awards – Guadalupe Abreu
  • Student Leadership Award – Susan Ogwal


All award recipients will be honored during the Immigrant Welcome Awards Ceremony and Celebration on Saturday, September 21, 2019.  The celebration starts at 3:00 p.m. and will be held on the ground floor of the Urbana Free Library (210 W. Green St., Urbana).  The public is invited to attend this free event and to celebrate the diversity of cultures that make up Champaign-Urbana.  The celebration includes food, music, art projects for children, special guests, and features oud, guitar, violin and flute by local musicians.  A free reception will immediately follow on the first floor of the Library.

Guests can also enjoy the exhibit BELONGING(S), a collection of photography and short stories from local immigrants exploring identity and curated by the Urbana Arts and Culture Program.  The CU Immigration Forum’s Steering and Planning Committee recognize that each nominee and recipient serve beyond a requirement and as a sign of their love to their fellow human beings. Please join us to celebrate their accomplishments and the amazing diversity of cultures in our wonderful and welcoming community.

The Immigrant Welcome Awards Ceremony and Celebration is sponsored by the C-U Immigration Forum, generously supported by the Cities of Champaign and Urbana and The Urbana Free Library, and co-sponsored by CU FAIR, University YMCA New American Welcome Center, Urbana Arts and Culture Program and the Channing Murray Foundation.

The 6th Annual Immigrant Welcome Awards Ceremony and Celebration is part of 2019 Welcoming Week, a national week of events that brings together immigrants and U.S. born residents in a spirit of better understanding and unity.

About the 6th Annual Immigrant Welcome Award Recipients

Business Leadership Award – A business that contributes to the local immigrant community through advocacy, donations, or in-kind services and/or a locally owned, immigrant-owned business that has contributed to the local economic development of CU.

2019 Winner: Ruth Wyman Law Office, Ruth Wyman, owner
The Ruth Wyman Law Office has worked diligently on several fronts to increase legal access for immigrants – providing affordable and timely legal consultations, DACA renewal application assistance, and Know Your Rights trainings for families.  In addition, Ruth Wyman has worked with the University YMCA to launch regular Free Legal Clinics at The Urbana Free Library.  Her leadership has helped to create an easy entry point for other local attorneys to volunteer.

Community Impact Award – A community-based organization, non-profit, public sector institution, or local government which demonstrates exceptional commitment to serving and advocating for local immigrants in our community. The nominee may also be considered for adopting specific policies or initiatives in response to the growing immigrant population.

2019 Winners:  Bend the Arc: Champaign-Urbana & Ann Abbott (two winners)
Bend the Arc is part of the national movement of progressive Jews who are organizing acts of public protest and organizing for social, racial and religious equality.  Here in Central Illinois they have played an important role in bringing the community together to understand the threat of white supremacy and the need to organize together to fight hate and defend the rights of immigrants and refugees.

Professor Ann Abbott is the Director of Undergraduate Studies and Associate Professor in the Spanish / Portuguese Department at the University of Illinois.  She is a leader in the teaching and promotion of civic engagement and community service learning.  Countless students from her classes have served at ECIRMAC (also known as the Refugee Center) and the New American Welcome Center – University YMCA, providing enthusiastic and committed students who can go on to serve as leaders in their own communities.  Her work on the Refugee Center Board, as well as her promotion of community service learning have also made significant contributions.

Leadership Award – An individual who has been a strong leader of the immigrant community

2019 Winner: Guadalupe Abreu
For nearly 20 years, Guadalupe Abreu has worked for the Refugee Center (ECIRMAC) as a bilingual Spanish translator, earning numerous certificates in bilingual certification, immigrant public benefits training and outreach in the immigrant community.  More than that, she has been a tireless friend and advocate to the Latinx community.

Student Leadership Award – A student who has shown promise as a leader or demonstrated commitment to serving or working with immigrants or refugees, locally or abroad.

 2019 Winner: Susan Ogwal
Susan Ogwal is the model of an engaged scholar.  She is a champion of cultural programming with a strong social justice ethic, exemplified by the soon-to-take-place Champaign-Urbana Black and African Arts Festival, a showcase of art, music, food and family activities.  She has done countless art workshops and educational programs and has contributed through service on boards and organizations. Her academic research seeks to fill a gap in understanding Black immigrants in Central Illinois.

Distinguished Leadership Service Award – An individual who made a significant contribution to making our community more welcoming to immigrants and refugees.

 2019 Winner:  Claire Szoke
For over 40 years, Claire Szoke has been on the front lines of nearly every social justice fight in our community.  She has been an important part of the movement for immigrant and refugee rights – from her work in the 1980s with the Sanctuary Movement to her key role as director of the Channing Murray Foundation and host of the first meetings of what would become the CU Immigration Forum.  This award acknowledges her lifetime of contributions to help create a more just world.

Media Contacts:
Ricardo Diaz – CU Immigration Forum – 217-979-0255
Rachel Joy – City of Champaign – 217-403-8830
Carol Inskeep – Urbana Free Library – 217-367-4405